Ayeene rappeling down a bridge in Laguna province during a Rescue Training, as part of WFP's disaster response capacity building projects with the local government.
Ayeene Robles has been a field monitor for WFP in the Philippines since 2009. In a country regularly hit by devastating natural disasters, this can be a challenging job, including travelling for weeks in areas completely submerged in floods and cut-off from the outside world.
MANILA – Ayeene is a “Ketsana baby” at the WFP office in the Philippines, meaning that she was hired in the immediate aftermath of Tropical Storm Ketsana, which struck the country in late 2009. Ayeene's own community was severely affected by “Ketsana” and her family’s house was not spared by the flooding. She could very well empathize with people who were badly affected by Ketsana and thus was very happy to join WFP to be able to help.
Responding to Emergencies
The Philippines is one of the most disaster-prone countries in the world with an average of 20 typhoons a year as well as being vulnerable to earthquakes and volcano eruptions. Just recently tropical storm Washi (locally named Sendong) hit Northern Mindanao, killing some 1,500 people and affecting over one million. It is because of this that WFP stands ready to complement and support the Government of the Philippines efforts, when needed, to provide food assistance for the most vulnerable and to help affected communities get back on their feet as quickly as possible.
During such an emergency, Ayeene regularly visits affected areas and evacuation centers. “I am there with my checklist and surveys to observe. Working jointly with our government partners, we want to make sure that the distributions go well and that the assistance provided reaches the neediest people,” Ayeene explains.
If needed, Ayeene has to travel for 3 weeks continuously, without going back home. Once, she visited an area where the local population was entirely depending on assistance as rice fields were flooded and markets empty. “It can be very hard to see so many people in urgent need of help. I saw a house which was completely destroyed and swept away by a landslide. The family who used to live there lost their baby. This really affected me because I myself have a one-year old child,” she recalls.
Preparedness, Preparedness, Preparedness
In view of the country’s high exposure to natural hazards, WFP has stepped up its support to the government’s disaster risk reduction strategy and is currently conducting several disaster preparedness projects in four of the most disaster-prone provinces of the country, together with government partners.
“Since I have also experienced the effects of natural disasters in my own community, I am glad that WFP puts maximum focus on supporting preparedness efforts. If you are better prepared, the impact of the disaster can be minimized,” Ayeene says.
WFP’s Disaster Preparedness programme includes projects to reduce the impact of landslides and floods, and organizes trainings to build the capacity of local government units and communities tailored to their context and priorities. Ayeene is regularly out in the field visiting these projects. “Being in the field is very fulfilling because you get to see the positive impact on the lives of the people we help. Every smile I get gives me a good feeling about my job – and believe me, I get a lot of smiles!”
Previously the Carlo Schmid Fellow in the Communications and Partnerships Unit for WFP in the Philippines. Philipp also briefly served as Reports Officer for WFP in South Sudan, before rejoining WFP Philippines as Communcations Officer.